This year we saw something really interesting happen in our business. Let me explain.
I was born & raised in West Virginia, and therefore since pretty much day one of our business I have said to Justin that it would be a DREAM to get to photograph a wedding at The Greenbrier (this gorgeous historic hotel in WV that is the epitome of elegance to me, and also side note: houses a bunker large enough to have held all of Congress during the Cold War. Crazy!) It’s been at the top of my bucket list for pretty much as long as we’ve had the business. And yet, despite becoming friends with planners who do weddings there and being featured several times in WV Weddings Magazine…it’s just never worked out. That is until, this year. And here’s the really crazy part: it happened because of Instagram.
Last Summer when we were down in WV to shoot another wedding in another city altogether, we stopped off at The Greenbrier for lunch and I posted this photo on Instagram afterwards. Caption: Who wants to shoot a wedding here? #thisgirl
Now here’s the first cool thing that happened: right away The Greenbrier started following me and they hardly follow anyone! Total.fan.girl. moment!! Ahh! But that wasn’t all. A few months later we got this inquiry from an amazing bride that read “I have adored your photography from afar as I stumbled upon your Instagram account very early in the wedding planning process last year. Now that I am researching further, I keep referencing your photography style as exactly what my groom and I are looking for.” Where was she getting married? The Greenbrier. How excited was she to be a J&M Bride? “10! times a thousand!” Who gets to shoot a wedding there in 2016?? THIS GIRL! :)
Now, I know that it’s not brand new information that potential brides can find you on Instagram. Several of you out there have probably had that happen already where brides stumbled upon you on IG. That’s old news. What’s REALLY interesting about this is how we can be using Instagram to bring us exactly the brides we’re looking for and some of our most ideal, dream weddings, just by being smart about how we’re using this pretty little app. And what I also know is that most of us aren’t making the MOST of all those opportunities. So here they are, our 5 Top Marketing Opportunities with Instagram that you might be missing out on!
1. Branding Your Grid. You have to start thinking about your Instagram “grid” (the first 12 squares that people see when they come to your IG profile) as like a mini website. It’s basically your store front for Instagram. And if people don’t like what they see when they first come over fair or not, just like they would on a website, chances are they are going to click away without ever following you. So that’s great & all, but HOW do you go about getting a consistent grid? I think this is one of the hardest things we’ve had to figure out with Instagram, and for the longest time my look was all over the place. But last summer I had an idea that has really helped a LOT: I decided to use the colors & vibe of our brand as a filter for how the grid should look. So now you’ll see a lot of blush, gray, black & white, ribbon, and iconic & romantic photos. And that happened very intentionally. Once I started matching the feed to our website, the consistency really started to show up! (Note: a GREAT resource that I just heard about from my friend Natalie Franke for helping to see if something matches your grid & laying the whole thing out before you ever post is the app Planogram. I’ve been using it for a little while & I’m LOVING it!)
2. Curating a mini-portfolio. One of the things that you’ll notice I did on that Instagram above after I did the caption, was that I included our signature hashtag #justinandmaryweddings (note that we also have #justinandmarybrides). I’ve basically been posting these two hashtags on all of our wedding photos for the last couple years, and what that turns into in effect is a mini (or not so mini!) portfolio of all our best images at the simple click of a button without them ever having to leave the app. As soon as a bride clicks on that hashtag, she can kind of go down a rabbit hole of our work getting pulled in further to getting to know us, our work & what we stand for as she goes.
3. Get In Front of People. The other thing you’ll notice that I did above is that after I shared our hashtag, I included The Greenbrier’s hashtag too as well as tagging them as my location. This gives people (and potential brides) two different ways to stumble upon us. Either by searching through the location tag and seeing everyone who has posted pictures there, or by clicking on the Greenbrier’s hashtag in one of their posts and then stumbling upon mine. What’s really cool about this, is that we have never had the chance to shoot a wedding at The Greenbrier before. And yet we were able to get in front of their brides simply by going & spending time there and Instagramming about it afterwards. The possibilities for this are endless. You can cross-promote & share audiences with a bunch of creatives when you do a wedding or styled shoot together. You can have lunch with a planner or florist & each post about it using each other’s hashtags (in addition to your own) even if you haven’t gotten to work together yet and really want to. You can travel to a city that you want to do more weddings in and tag those locations. You can go have lunch at a venue where you want to work & post about being there. It really blows the doors wide open on breaking into markets that you otherwise haven’t been able to get a foot in the door!
4. A Drip Campaign. We really like to think of Instagram as our steady marketing drip campaign. In other words, it gives us the chance to tell people over and over on the daily, who we are and what we want to be known for. For example for us we want to be known for: iconic black & white photos (#bringingblackandwhiteback), beautiful blush details (#bringontheblush), weddings & shoots at historic mansions or places with classic architecture, our Why and shooting for the generations to come, rich emotional moments, gorgeous Vanity Fair style dresses, and more personally…our marriage, our faith, golden retrievers (#cooperthewonderpup), restoring old homes (#marantzhouseproject) and fashion (#justinandmarystyle) We sort of stumbled on all this ourselves as we’ve been figuring things out, but if you want to fast-track it our friend Jenna Kutcher has an amazing FREE Instagram guide that goes into much more detail on how to figure out your big 5 on what you want people to know about you that you can find by going HERE. But the point is, you can use this to remind people who you are on the daily, to help you think of posts when you’re stuck, and you can create hashtags around them to pull people in further. For example, here is just a slice of the feed from our hashtag #bringontheblush that we created to showcase only our blush detail work.
5. Inspiring Others. Finally, I think one of the biggest missed opportunities that people run into with Instagram is viewing it only as something that is good for themselves. They get focused on growing their numbers or sending people to their sites (we all do from time to time!). But just always try to remember that there are real people behind those screens and that by them making the choice to follow you, you have a real opportunity to speak into their lives. To be a voice of hope on a day that might be crumbling, and share light where it was most unexpected. And sometimes that’s just as easy as admitting you don’t have it all together and giving people permission to breathe. Like this post I did yesterday.
Ok, that’s it! As always we hope this was helpful! If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments below! And if you aren’t yet, head over HERE to follow us on Instagram!
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*PS: Also be sure to check out this blog post we were featured in from our friends at Shoot Dot Edit about some hashtags you should definitely be using!!